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The limitations we have experienced as the result of COVID-19 lockdowns have forced us into longer periods of stillness than most of us are accustomed to. While many have welcomed the stillness, others have found it unbearable.
The aversion to stillness isn’t just related to the stress of the pandemic. Some of us experience the challenges of being still when we are on our yoga mat. If you’re naturally drawn to the intensity and heat of a fast-paced, active practice, you may find it challenging to slow down and connect to the stillness within the flow. Do you have a hard time experiencing the quiet power of Savasana (Corpse Pose)? Do you avoid meditation because quieting the mind seems difficult or even impossible? You may find that it is helpful to prepare for stillness with gentle, intentional movement.
Yes, you can find stillness even in an active practice—and it brings balance and allows the body, mind, and spirit an opportunity to rest. In this sequence, I recommend that you take at least 3 breaths before moving to the next asana. I’ve incorporated affirmations with asana to help bring balance to the busy-ness and connection to stillness within flow. These can be said out loud or internally.
Helpful props: A blanket and two blocks
See also: Why Is Child’s Pose So Insanely Calming?
A sequence to flow into stillness
Begin in Mountain Pose. Standing with your feet together or a few inches apart, spread your toes and root down through the soles of your feet. Shift your weight slightly forward, back, and side to side to find an even balance across your feet. Engage your thigh muscles and rotate them inward. Maintaining the natural curve of your spine, draw your lower belly in slightly. Lift your sternum up while keeping the lower ribs drawn in. Each time you inhale, find length in your body; each time you exhale, find grounding.
Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, move into Chair Pose by bending your knees and moving your hips back as if you were going to sit in a chair. Hinge at the hips to angle your torso slightly forward as you shift your weight into your heels and move your hips back a little more. You should be able to look down and see your toes. Inhale and bring your arms up alongside the ears or bring the hands together at the energetic heart center. Exhale and draw your shoulder blades down while rotating your upper arms in with palms facing one another.
Tune into the strength and power of this asana as you breathe and say the affirmation, “I am connected,” out loud or internally.
On your next exhalation, bend fully forward to move into Standing Forward Bend with straight or bent legs. Breathe as you rest your hands on your thighs or shins, on blocks or on the mat.
On an exhale, bend your knees deeply and step your right foot back into Low Lunge. Check that your left knee is aligned over your left ankle. As you exhale, press the right foot back to lengthen the leg.
Inhale and slowly lift your torso into High Lunge, aligning shoulders over hips. Bring your hands to your hips and as you exhale, shift the left hip back and the right hip forward while maintaining alignment in the legs. Inhale to sweep the arms up, drawing the shoulder blades down and lengthening up through the spine.
Breathing deeply into balance, say the affirmation, “I am free.”
Parivrtta Anjaneyasana (Revolved Lunge Pose)
On your next exhalation, extend your arms straight out to each side, parallel to the floor. Twist your torso to the left. Lower your right hand to the mat or a block and bring your left hand to your hip. Rotate your left shoulder back, opening the chest to face the side of your mat. As you inhale, reach up with the left arm for Revolved Lunge Pose. Exhale and draw the shoulder blades down the back. Keeping your neck long, turn your head to look down, to the left or up. Press back through your right heel to keep the leg active, or drop your knee down.
With your awareness on your body and breath, say the affirmation, “I am strong.”
Bring your left hand to the mat on the outside of the foot and drop your right knee down. As you inhale, raise your arms overhead for Low Lunge. Exhale to shift your hips forward while pressing firmly into your front foot. For more support, hug your thighs in toward one another.
As you breathe and tune into the flow of energy within and all around, say the affirmation, “I am love.”
Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Monkey Pose)
Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, bring your hands to the mat or blocks on each side of your left foot. Shift your hips back toward the right heel, extend the left leg straight and flex the left foot for Half Monkey Pose. Draw your left heel back to align your pelvis and, on an exhalation, fold forward over the left leg.
Breathing deeply into peace, say the affirmation, “I speak my truth.”
Inhale to lift your torso and bend the left leg. As you exhale, bring your left knee back to Tabletop. Inhale and separate your knees wide and touch the big toes behind you. As you exhale, lower your torso down between your legs and stretch your arms in front of you for Child’s Pose. Rest your head on the mat or on a block. If this pose is not comfortable, come forward to lie on your belly with your legs and arms extended.
As you settle into the calm of the asana, breath deeply and say the affirmation, “I see clearly.”
Move into Tabletop and curl your toes under. Walk your hands one palm-print forward so they are ahead of your shoulders. As you exhale, lift your knees and press your hips up and back for Down Dog. Bend and straighten both legs a few times to settle in.
Let your mind soften into the rhythm of your breath and say the affirmation, “I am boundless,” as you continue to breathe. Inhale and step your right foot forward into High Lunge.
Repeat the sequence on the opposite side.
From Downward-Facing Dog, walk your feet forward to the top of your mat for Standing Forward Bend with straight or bent legs. Bend your knees. As you inhale, lift your torso and arms for Chair pose. Shift your weight into your heels as you draw the hips back. Breathing into grounded energy, say the affirmation, “I am connected.” Slowly straighten your legs for Tadasana.
Take a moment to repeat any of the affirmations that resonated with you, or say your own.
Make your way down to your mat and lie on your back with bent knees. Take a deep breath in and, as you exhale, hug both knees in toward your chest and hold them with your hands on your shins or the back of the thighs. Circle your knees a few times in each direction. Come back to stillness and bring the soles of your feet down to the mat. Move into Savasana or another asana that offers comfort and the opportunity for reflection.
Watch this video to flow into stillness with Dana A. Smith
About our contributor
Dana A. Smith is the founder and owner of Spiritual Essence Yoga and the creative visionary behind the international YES! Yoga Has Curves movement and the book of the same name.
Photos/Video by Wanakhavi Wakhisi
Music by Kinard Cherry